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The Learning Curve
The following morning after breakfast, the two cousins walked into the study together laughing and joking about everything and nothing.
“Good morning, lads,” Mister Breddo greeted them as they walked inside the room.
“Good morning, Mister Breddo,” they replied together.
“Here’s my new report from Toby Hornblower’s Pipeweed and Herblore book.” Pippin handed Breddo his new work.
Breddo flipped through the pages and handed it back to Pippin. “I want you to read it as soon as I’ve inspected Master Meriadoc’s work.”
Still a bit bashful about his newly acquired skills, Merry gave the elder hobbit the arithmetic calculations he was assigned to complete.
Breddo looked over the sheet of paper. Some errant numbers were crossed out, but all in all the sums to the formulas were correct--every single one of them. He also handed Merry back his work and said, “Be ready for me to test you on some aspects of Measurement.” Merry nodded.
When called upon, Pippin stood next to his desk and proudly read aloud his handiwork. When he was finished, he was pleased to hear applause from the two other people in the room.
“Much, much better, Master Peregrin!” Said Breddo.
Pippin’s eyes shifted over to his cousin; he was smiling, too. He could hear Merry mouthing, “I knew you could do it!" Pippin smiled and took a bow before returning to his seat.
Merry was asked to recite the table of measurements. Merry complied, though a bit nervous. Pippin silently sang along with his cousin:
“1 pint of cornmeal comes from 4 gills,
Thoroughly grinded by the mills.
If I eat too much I’ll get a wart,
Remember 2 pints equals a quart.
Though not quite as sharp as an eagle’s talon,
Is 4 quarts that equal a gallon?
Although 2 gallons equal a peck,
It can’t measure up to a thousand flecks.
Like tomatoes we throw at each other and mush-el,
It takes 8 gallons of them to fill a bushel.
(Merry smiled, remembering a particular tomato fight)
We take the tomatoes to market to barter
Because 8 bushels equal a quarter.”
Slightly blushing, Merry quickly sat down. Breddo looked in wonder at the lad who just yesterday had difficulties with the basics of measurements. “So, Master Meriadoc, if I give you 4 gallons of...tomatoes, what do you have?”
Merry barely paused. “A half a bushel.”
A wide smile came to the old Tutor’s face. He flipped through the pages of the book he gave to Merry the day before. “Very good, Master Meriadoc, though I would learn sooner where you came by that ditty?”
Merry looked at his cousin, “Pippin and I made it up yesterday evening. It’s just nonsense, but it helps me to remember them.”
Sitting down on the sofa, he asked, “What happened yesterday when I left for...Mister Paladin’s office?”
The boys shrugged. “We had an argument,” Pippin answered. “I accidentally knocked over Merry’s ink jar and ruined his book report. He said I was jealous over his writing...and he was right--I was. But yesterday evening we worked together on his tables, and he helped me get past the dry--er, I mean, the difficult parts of reading Toby’s Herblore. I actually found some of it quite interesting and so I was able to write about it--truthfully this time.”
“So yesterday evening, you lads worked together on your assignments?“ Asked the Tutor. They both nodded. His smile was sincere, “I am glad to hear that.”
Breddo motioned for the lads to join him on the sofa, “I must confess that I was humiliated and angry when you two young lads outwitted me a few days ago. Yesterday I tried to set you against one another as retribution. But my heart wasn’t in it, which is why I left the room. I didn’t go to Mister Paladin’s office; I went for a walk in the garden to collect my thoughts.” His smile turned sad, “Now I am the one who wants to run away! However, that shall not happen, though I will promise you lads this: I shall never set you two against one another ever again.”
Merry replied, “We guessed that’s what you were up to and so we thought to thwart your plan by doing the exact opposite. Which wasn’t hard for us because we’re already good friends.”
The tension in the air seemed to dissipate. Breddo finally spoke, “Will you lads forgive a foolish old hobbit?”
Pippin smiled, “I will forgive you--but it comes at the price of being released early today!”
Breddo laughed, “A small price to pay!” Then he grew serious, “I will leave you lads today with this: You both share something I have never seen in cousins elsewhere. Don’t ever allow anyone or anything tear your hearts asunder.” He looked at Merry, “Don’t fool yourself; you are a bright lad in your own right, Master Meriadoc. You were taught well and have kept in memory most everything you’ve learned. Don’t let a difficulty like measurements make you think otherwise. I‘ve been confused by them at times myself.”
Then he looked at Pippin, “Indeed you are a very clever lad, Master Peregrin, and there I should have been quicker to listen closely to your father when he hired me--he did warn me.” Pippin blushed. Breddo gave him a smile then continued, “Your only obstacle is reading material that you find uninteresting--and I mean to break that habit! You are capable of so much, lad. When the day finally arrives that you become Thain, between your head and your heart, you will accomplish great things.” He smiled and stood up, “and as I shall keep my word, I am releasing you lads to the sunshine and soft meadows to run in. Off with you, now!”
The boys laughed in their excitement. They ran out of the study and headed straight for the stables, as they had planned to go riding that day.
Breddo watched them go, speaking softly to himself, “I’ll see you lads in the morning.”
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